This summer’s heatwave has us all wondering how to stay cool, but animals are facing the same issues as humans with fewer means of coping. Professor Tom Oliver is Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of Reading UK, and his research focuses on understanding the causes of changes to biodiversity to support environmental decision-making. Here he looks at the potentially worrying impact the drought conditions could have on wildlife in the UK.
Marbled white butterfly with butterfly recorder in background. Long-term monitoring schemes give us invaluable information on how species have responded to past drought events.
With widespread reports of intense heatwaves and drought across the Northern hemisphere this summer, combined with our own personal observations of how everything is starting to look very parched, it is natural to wonder how drought is affecting our wildlife.
When the temperature heats up, we humans can take measures to reduce our exposure, such as heading down the shops to buy a fan, or even installing air conditioning. Yet, our wildlife has much less opportunity for such ‘learned’ adaptation to climate change.
That said, there are innate behaviours that can help wildlife to cope; for example many insects regulate their body temperatures by moving to cooler, moister habitats (e.g deep woodland or shady streams and ponds) when things get too hot. The food sources of these insects are also more likely to persist in such areas. So the existence of such ‘refuge’ habitats can be crucial in allowing species to persist under intense heat and drought events.
The Environment Agency is consulting on a new flood alleviation scheme for Reading, to be sited on the banks of the River Thames in Caversham, and they’re inviting local residents to look at the proposals online and give feedback. Reading environmental scientist and Caversham resident Dr Liz Stephens gives her thoughts on the scheme.
There are plenty of photographs of the 1947 flood in Reading, including this one taken from a plane. Credit: The County Borough of Reading, via Bob Jones
Caversham may have been fortunate to miss out on the worst of the flooding along the Thames in recent memory, but the scale of the flooding experienced in 1947 shows that many people in lower Caversham may unknowingly live in areas at high risk of flooding.
The extraordinary level of the 1947 flood is marked on a pole by Reading Bridge/Whittington’s Tea Barge, which is visible from the Thames Path. It wasn’t a one-off either, as photographs in Reading Museum point to significant flooding in 1894.
Thirty international experts met at the University of Reading recently, to help the United Nations develop better policies and practices to safeguard the world’s pollinators.
The meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was convened to identify the greatest threats facing pollinators in different parts of the world and was hosted by Professor Simon Potts, Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental research.
By Christian Pfrang, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading
Our new study found surprisingly complex arrangements of molecules inside droplets mimicking atmospheric aerosols.
These types of aerosols are typical of pollution emitted in large quantities by cooking processes in Greater London. This self-assembly is caused by molecules –such as fatty acids– containing both water-loving and water-hating parts. While the general concept of self-assembly is well-known and surface films of these molecules have been studied before, complex three-dimensional arrangements inside water-based droplets found in the atmosphere have not previously been considered.